Update on Windreach Farm's Operations due to COVID-19. MORE INFO

Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Spotlight – February 2021

​Meagan Rollo – started January 2020

lady holding lambMeagan started volunteering at WindReach Farm in January 2020 for her Social Service Worker field placement. Before entering college, she debated between the Animal Care and Social Service Worker programs for quite a long time so she felt that WindReach would be a wonderful place to be. Growing up on farms while horseback riding, Meagan knew WindReach would be an amazing learning experience.

Prior to coming to WindReach, Meagan had always enjoyed working with people and animals. She brought this knowledge and experience with her to her placement at the Farm, where she continues to learn new things every day. When volunteering, Meagan always has a positive attitude, whether it is leading a tour; planning activities for different events; or working with the animals.

Her favourite thing about volunteering is working with a variety of people each day. Between staff, volunteers, other students, and participants, she is always meeting new people and learning new things. No day is ever the same, which is part of what makes WindReach so special. Meagan also loves volunteering at WindReach because she gets to spend time outside, enjoying nature.

Meagan has learned countless things through volunteering, however one thing that sticks out the most, is how much work it takes to run such an incredible place! Just being on the Farm you can see how much everyone cares about WindReach and how much effort they all put in. She has never experienced a place where the volunteers were so passionate about what they were doing, and she sees firsthand the difference it makes for the participants and visitors.

Meagan has already had many memorable moments at WindReach, but her favourite one was holding one of the newborn lambs last year and being shown how to cut the umbilical cord. Who would have thought that she could experience something like that on a Social Service Worker student placement? Meagan is thankful that WindReach staff are very dedicated to teaching their students about all aspects of the Farm, no matter what program they are in. She will always be grateful for this opportunity as it is something she will likely never get to do again.

Thank you, Meagan, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – January 2021

Sharon Semeluk – started April 2015

Sharon came to WindReach Farm back in April 2015 to inquire about volunteering with the wool program. She has a very demanding, and often stressful, job working in international patent law in downtown Toronto and needed a way to de-stress. She attended a volunteer orientation with her husband, Derek, who came as a driver and ended up deciding to volunteer with the therapeutic riding program. They wanted to commit to a full day together, so initially Sharon spent her days at the Farm with the wool group in the morning and helping with farm tours in the afternoon, stopping to enjoy lunch with Derek in between. She also helped with a Beyond the Farm Gate visit (it was chicken day) and has helped out at various special events, including a riding demonstration at the Royal Winter Fair.

Working with horses was not something she was comfortable with initially, but it didn’t take long for her to be drawn to it. Sharon decided to make the switch to join Derek with a full day at the Stables, thinking that at least she could be a side walker. She was worried about being put with one of the larger horses and didn’t want to tack up or clean horses’ feet. As fate would have it, she started out working with Alex, the gentle giant, as a side walker. Sharon is now proud to say that she has, with the kind guidance of Kendra, Pat and Andrew, progressed to being able to also tack, lead and work with any of the program horses.

Sharon had the opportunity to take lessons when it was open to volunteers and, although she is more comfortable with her feet on the ground, found that riding provided her with a valuable insight into the experience from the program participants’ perspective.

One day, when Sharon was still very green, the team at the stables found themselves short handed for the school program. Kendra asked her to lead a horse for the first time and Sharon was terrified. “The horse could tell and kept giving me strange looks”, said Sharon. She lived to tell about it and, like some of our riders, “I did it” was all she could say when the ride was over. Sharon learned early not to put limitations on herself or the riders, to be open to opportunities, to celebrate the accomplishments, and learn from the mistakes. Another lesson learned was to know when to just get out of the way.

“It has been such a pleasure being able to volunteer at WindReach side by side with my husband, and we have come to call the staff and our fellow volunteers our Farm family”, she said. She had no previous experience with therapeutic riding or working with people with disabilities, but Sharon tells everyone and anyone who will listen that if they have any free time, the WindReach Farm therapeutic riding program is the place to volunteer. There is no need for previous experience. You will be appreciated, never taken for granted and someone will always be there to help you out.

The total experience at the stables, coupled with the fresh air and exercise, turned out to be exactly what Sharon needed to de-stress from work. The riders, and the struggles they and their families have to overcome, have given her an appreciation for all that she has and a drive to continue to give back where she can.

In 2019, Sharon expanded her role further at WindReach, starting a crafting group that operated out of her home on weekends, where WindReach volunteers, their friends and family could get together to make things to sell to raise funds for WindReach. The group first showcased their wares at the 2019 Holly Jolly Jubilee. Their table included bake sale and craft items, all of which were made and donated by WindReach volunteers, riders and their families. It was an amazing success and we were looking forward to a repeat in 2020. Obviously COVID-19 changed a lot of the Farm’s plans for the year, but we were able to feature Sharon’s group’s crafts at the Halloween drive-thru pop-up shop, as well as through WindReach’s first online craft auction where the volunteer crafters added their creations to those made by the Learning-4-Life participants.

Sharon looks forward to returning to volunteering at the Stables once the therapeutic riding program is in full swing again. In the meantime, she continues to work with interested WindReach volunteer crafters (remotely for now) to ensure that they are ready when the next fundraising opportunity presents itself.

Thank you, Sharon, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – December 2020

Sally Ross – started September 2019

Sally started volunteering at WindReach Farm in September 2019. When she retired two years ago, Sally knew that volunteering was something she would do, but needed to find the right volunteer position – something that she would feel passionate about. It had to include animals, as well as contribute to the community. Sally’s husband came home from a 100 Men of Oshawa meeting one night and said that someone from WindReach Farm had been there speaking about all they do. Sally had heard of WindReach, but it never crossed her mind to look into their volunteer program. She attended a Volunteer Orientation session, and after hearing about all the programs and opportunities, she knew this was a place she wanted to be.

Choosing a program was more difficult than she thought because there were several that interested her. In the end, Sally stuck to her ‘farm-girl/horse-lover’ roots and chose to volunteer at the stables. She knew she would love it, having ridden and been around horses since the age of five on her family farm. Since being at the stables, Sally has been involved in all aspects of the therapeutic riding program – stall cleaning, grooming, tacking, leading, and assisting the instructors and riders with whatever they require.

Soon after starting, Sally knew it was not just the horses that kept her coming back. The stables staff and volunteers were very helpful, supportive and fun to work with, and the riders were a blessing to be around. She gets excited to meet new riders each session and to re-connect with returning participants from past sessions. She enjoys talking to them and hearing what they have to say. “The interaction with people of all ages and abilities has raised my patience and compassion bar noticeably. It is extremely rewarding to be a member of the (WindReach) stables family and know that my small part has helped someone connect with their horse, learn a new skill and, above all, have a lot of fun.”

During this past summer, with limited activity at the Farm, Sally got involved with the drive-thru events. She also joined the bingo team in September because she just felt driven to help more and, with the Red Barn Auditorium being so close to home, Sally thought, “Why not?!” When the other programs open up again in the future, Sally looks forward to adding a few more volunteer opportunities to her schedule.

Sally feels her whole experience has been memorable. “Just ask my family and friends who, when they see me coming, are probably thinking: Here comes Sally. She’ll have a WindReach story for us again today,” she laughs.

Sally encourages anyone interested in volunteering to consider WindReach Farm. If they want to be at a friendly place with a large variety of programs to choose from; and if they like to be around animals, people, and nature, then it’s a perfect fit! WindReach truly does inspire, empower and change lives.

Thank you, Sally, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – November 2020

Patricia Mansvelt-Beck – started May 2017

volunteer smiling with Christmas hatTricia started volunteering at WindReach Farm in May 2017 following the recommendation of a friend. Tricia has always had a love of animals and originally volunteered with the therapeutic riding program. Shortly after starting to volunteer, an opportunity arose to volunteer in the wool program and she thought this would be a great fit.

When Tricia first started volunteering in the therapeutic riding program, she helped out as a side walker during lessons and with cleaning tack. Besides meeting regularly with other wool volunteers, she helps with the summer camp by providing wool activities for the campers; and volunteers with special events both on and off site. Tricia enjoys volunteering in Toronto at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair booth, where visitors enjoy watching wool volunteers spin, card, and tease wool, and create needle-felted animals/decorations. Other off-site events include the Whitby Santa Claus Parade and Parks Canada events. During on-site events, she has helped by participating in wool activities at the RCMP Musical Ride, Founder’s Day, the Holly Jolly Jubilee and, most recently, Tricia organized the wool activity area, volunteers, and decorations for our two-day Halloween Drive-Thru event.

Once she retired 10 years ago, she felt it was important for her to give back. Tricia says “the feeling of belonging to organization that supports so many that need a little extra special care, is extremely rewarding. The interaction, meeting so many amazing people of all ages, and the smiles/reactions on the faces of the participants warms my heart and puts a big smile of my face.”

A while ago, a friend asked Tricia if she could make some holiday decorations that could be used as a ‘thank you’ for clients/friends, so Tricia needle-felted some adorable Santas for her friend to use. When Tricia delivered the Santas, her friend presented her with a sizeable cheque to donate to the Farm for her efforts. She continues to be amazed at the heartfelt generosity of people that understand the importance of our organization.

WindReach Farm is a unique organization that offers something to some very special children and adults that may not have the same opportunity that you or I might have. Tricia believes that everyone deserves happiness and love in their lives, and she thinks that WindReach tries to bring that to so many.

Thank you, Tricia, for all that you do at WindReach Farm. 

One person CAN make a difference!


Volunteer Spotlight – October 2020

Cathy Belanger – started March 2015

Cathy started volunteering at WindReach Farm in March 2015. Her daughter Erika volunteered to fulfill her high school’s community service hours, at Michelle M’s therapeutic riding stable 15 years ago. They were already a horsey family and it was a perfect fit for them. There were times that Cathy was asked to help out. She loved it and told herself that when she retired, this would be what she finds time for, to volunteer in the community.  Cathy retired five years ago and heard about WindReach through friends that had children riding at the Farm. She was eager to start volunteering.

Cathy mostly helps out at the stables. Initially, she started out grooming, tacking and leading the horses. She then started taking lessons with Pat Bullock, the Farm’s Coordinator of Equine Services. With some experience under her belt, Cathy now helps with training new volunteers in how to assist with lessons and working out any kinks before a rider gets on a horse. She feels honoured that the staff trust her with all the wonderful horses. After five years, she feels they are her horses too!

It’s more than the love of the horses that appeals to Cathy; the children and adults who come to ride are wonderful too! Getting to know them and sharing this special time with them is humbling. Their parents and caregivers have shown Cathy that dedication and unconditional love can create a happy life for those with so many challenges. The staff at WindReach understand their participants’ needs and their expertise, kindness and patience create an open and respectful environment for everyone.

Cathy can recall many memorable moments. The one that stands out the most took place in the outdoor arena with the instructor, another volunteer and a four-year-old little boy getting on the horse for his first lesson ever. The instructor was asking him all kinds of questions and he answered every question and even asked some of his own. He spoke with the horse and patted her gently. Cathy looked over at his mother and she was crying. At first, Cathy thought they were doing something wrong. His mom then told her between sobs that her son could speak, but he rarely did, and now they couldn’t get this little guy to stop talking; and then everyone was crying!

Cathy tells anyone looking for a place to volunteer that wants a happy working environment, great people and staff, and an opportunity to work with horses, to come to WindReach. She loves it so much that she brought her beloved horse, Maddie to board at the Stables where she gets love and great care.

Thank you, Cathy, for all that you do at WindReach Farm. 

One person CAN make a difference!


Volunteer Spotlight – September 2020

Agnes Shaw – started September 2018

Our Summer Volunteer Spotlight is on Agnes Shaw. Agnes started volunteering at WindReach in September 2018 and has jumped right into her role with ease.

Agnes volunteers because she has always enjoyed working with people and animals, making WindReach a perfect fit for her. She spent her career as a small animal veterinarian and brings with her an understanding and appreciation of the human-animal bond. Agnes knows animals touch a deep place in so many people and finds it a privilege to engage in the interactions between the farm animals and the Farm’s participants and visitors.

Agnes enjoys seeing people young and old light up when they first hold a chicken or rabbit on their laps. “It is wonderful to see someone who was a bit fearful at first being able to hand feed a sheep or goat,” says Agnes.

She has learned that many wonderful people work incredibly hard to make other people’s lives better. WindReach brings out the best in people and has had a positive impact on many individuals in her community.

Besides all of her veterinarian skills, Agnes is a wonderful photographer and on a number of occasions has offered her wonderful photography skills to come up and take pictures of the WindReach Farm property and animals. You will be able to see some of her work when we complete and launch the new version of the Farm’s website later this year.

Agnes chooses to donate her time as it makes her happy to be able to make a small difference in the world. Thank you, Agnes.

One person CAN make a difference!


Volunteer Spotlight – Summer 2020

Marie Akins – started 2019

Our Summer Volunteer Spotlight is on Marie Akins. Marie started volunteering at WindReach Farm in January 2019 and has been a wonderful, dedicated volunteer ever since.

Marie came to us as a Durham College placement student in the animal care program and she volunteered at the Stables, assisting with horse care, chores, lessons and wherever she was needed. She easily completed her almost 200 placement hours and wanted to stay on. Her placement went so well she was hired as a weekend staff at the Stables and continued to work on weekends and stat holidays until COVID-19 hit. She pitched in and filled in several weekends and holidays to help cover many shifts from the Fall of 2019 to March 2020.

Since the Farm had to shut down due to COVID-19 in March, Marie has continued to volunteer almost full-time hours during the week as well as on weekends to help out Pat and Andrew with all of the horse care and chores at the Stables. With protocols and procedures having to adapt due to COVID-19, we have had to keep the number of people on the Farm to a minimum, thus making more work for the handful of staff and volunteers, but that hasn’t deterred Marie! Her dedication and passion have been incredibly helpful and appreciated.

Most recently, Marie helped to transform the star of our drive-throughs, Abby into a stunning unicorn that delighted visiting children and adults alike. Marie took great pride and care in dressing her up as a unicorn for our June and July drive-throughs, and don’t worry, if you haven’t seen our unicorn yet, I’m sure she will be joining us again for the August 21st and 23rd drive-throughs.

Thank you, Marie for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – June 2020

Rosemary Oliver – started 2007

June’s Volunteer Spotlight is on Rosemary Oliver. Rosemary started volunteering at WindReach Farm in 2007 and has been a very dedicated volunteer ever since.

Rosemary initially helped with animal care on the Farm side (feeding, watering, and cleaning pens), but she does so much more now. She is an extremely talented and creative person, who uses her skills – both existing and newly learned – in many ways at WindReach.

She is the lead volunteer in our wool group and helps with the entire wool process from sorting the wool after the sheep have been sheared, to washing, teasing, carding, dyeing and spinning. She and the wool group have created many products using the wool – felted soaps, needle felted animals and knit products   to name a few.

This past month, Rosemary took it upon herself to sew several masks for the staff and a handful of volunteers who are on site working at WindReach through the COVID-19 closure. The masks are washable with a pocket between two layers, so that a non-woven layer can be added in for better protection. Rosemary had lots of beautiful patterned material that she used to create these farm-themed masks.

Most masks that you see out in the community are solid and can block visual cues, such as facial expressions, lip-reading, and emotions. All of these cues are critical for deaf and hard of hearing people to fully communicate. One of our staff, Andrew is deaf and uses both sign language and lip-reading to communicate with others. When we asked our volunteers for help to find or make a mask that is translucent over the mouth, Rosemary jumped at the challenge to create more masks, and of course she was successful! She will be dropping off more masks for us so that the staff and volunteers will be able to successfully communicate with Andrew while wearing a mask for safety.

Thank you, Rosemary, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – May 2020

Taylor, Cindy, Erin, Leslie, Ella, Ami, Liz, Emily, and Lesley

We have another wonderful group of volunteers to celebrate in May! These volunteers stepped up back in mid-March and have been caring for some of our furry Beyond the Farm Gate (BFG) ambassadors in their homes ever since. It is very important for our WindReach animals to be friendly and comfortable with people, but it is exceptionally important for our BFG animals to keep being held, loved and handled so that when we are able to return to off site visits, they are ready to go.

Our rabbits, Hopscotch & Lily; Butterscotch & Thumper; and Molly have been well taken care of by Taylor B, Cindy G, Erin S, Leslie, and Ella V.

Our guinea pigs, Peaches & Patches; Astro & Comet; and Petunia & Amelia have been under the wonderful care of Ami A, Liz B, Emily C, and Lesley H. Thanks to Lesley H who has also been caring for our budgie and several chicks that were newly hatched back in March.

We truly do have some amazing volunteers!

Thank you all!

Volunteer Spotlight – April 2020

​Colleen, Sara, Jennifer, Sherry, Dave, and Brett

April’s Volunteer Spotlight is on several staff who, during their temporary leave, continued to support WindReach Farm by helping with chores, property maintenance, animal care, horticultural therapy, virtual programming, and social media.

Thank you to Colleen Arbuckle, Sara Cosway, Jennifer Crothers, Sherry Dodson, David Larkin and Brett Smith!

Brett, Colleen and Jennifer have organized and hosted a few virtual Learning-4-Life (L4L) programs which have involved video calls with the three staff and some of the L4L participants enjoying seeing how the animals at the Farm are doing, a ‘morning chat’ where participants can see and hear what everyone else has been up to, and a craft activity. It has been very well received and staff will continue to offer these virtual sessions three times a week.

Sherry has also been doing some virtual programming with a couple different groups at Ontario Shores. During the sessions, Sherry is on site at the Farm in the gardens and trying to engage the participants in some horticultural activities. Sherry has also been busy at the Farm getting gardens ready, watering and tending to the plants.

Dave has been a huge help with animal care and property care/maintenance. He has been volunteering at the stables and the barn, helping to feed and care for the animals and clean up their pens. Those of you who do help with animal care know what a big job this is to do and can appreciate the amount of physical labour that goes into it. He has also helped Tony, as needed, with property maintenance.

Sara has been busy keeping our social media outlets up to date. She has been helping by sourcing pictures for all posts on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Mailchimp for our donor outreach. She has scheduled and put up all posts on social media and replied to any questions as well.

As you can see, these staff have kept extremely busy during their ‘time off’ work from WindReach. It is apparent they love WindReach and the people we serve. They truly do know what it is like to volunteer, and this makes us all appreciate even more what our wonderful volunteers do at WindReach Farm.

Thank you all!


Volunteer Spotlight – March 2020

Carolynn MacKinnon – started February 2019

Carolynn came to WindReach early in 2019 after retiring from an intense career. She was looking for a positive environment and was looking to do something that was both close to home and that would allow her to work outside. She went online to google ‘volunteer locally’ and found WindReach Farm.

When asked what she likes about volunteering at WindReach, Carolynn answered ‘being outside’ and helping out with the Beyond the Farm Gate program where she gets to go to different places all the time (schools, seniors residences, community organizations). She enjoys being able to connect with all ages, stages and abilities – this includes working with children, women and seniors. Carolynn enjoys the positive outlook of the WindReach staff and the whole operation.

Carolynn is most surprised about the interaction she sees between people and animals and what a huge impact the animals can have on people in such a short time. Recently, at a seniors’ home, one of the ladies appeared quite comfortable with having a chicken on her lap. She had connected with the chicken because of her past. It turns out that she was former farmer who was dealing with dementia and wasn’t coherent a lot of the time during the visit, except for when she held the chicken. She told Carolynn “this is the best day I’ve had in a very long time!”

Carolynn wishes more people knew about WindReach Farm and the amazing programs here. She wishes more people knew how easy it is to interact with, and be part of, WindReach programs. The volunteer program is very flexible and accessible for everyone! You can do as much or as little as you want within the required 10 hours per month. “It’s not a lot, really – volunteers are given the flexibility to work around their schedule and the Farm’s needs.”

When she’s not volunteering at WindReach Farm, Carolynn is kept busy with her new home and working on various projects there. She is an artist and enjoys painting and pottery, as well as curling and travelling. She likes to stays busy and is still figuring out how this whole retirement thing works!

Thank you, Carolynn, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – February 2020

person smiling with horseMichal Kiezebrink – started May 2017

Michal came to WindReach Farm in May 2017 for a New Volunteer Orientation after her mom suggested checking it out. She had never heard of WindReach before then, but was impressed when she arrived.

With her farming background, Michal started out volunteering with mucking stalls, something she had familiarity with, and has since assisted with therapeutic riding lessons and other stable chores. She also helps with turning horses in and out, grooming and tacking up horses before lessons and leading or sidewalking during lessons. Michal really enjoys helping out at Holly Jolly Jubilee and other special events like the Whitby Santa Claus Parade – both on and off site in the community. Michal’s scoliosis doesn’t slow her down, as she manages to put in a full day volunteering with a physical job at WindReach, and is often there two days a week.

When asked what she enjoys most about volunteering, Michal said she has made lots of friends while volunteering, both human and horse-kind and loves spending time with both. “Seeing kids smile and have a good time riding! It’s a lot of fun,” she replied.

One of the best things to happen to Michal while volunteering at WindReach is she now feels she has more compassion for others. She has noticed her patience level has also increased while working with animals and people.
When Michal is not volunteering, she enjoys being home spending time with her family, friends and just hanging out with her Old English Bulldog, Hagrid.
Thank you Michal for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!